Unless our high-rise buildings will be torn down and replaced with sprawling pods, lifts will be part of that future. Exercise best practices to stay safe.
For people living or working in a high-rise building, riding the lift is a necessity. With more people returning to work, the question on many of these people’s minds is: Should I be riding the lift? If the destination is 25 floors up, for most, the question is moot.
The good news is, evidence has not shown that riding an elevator is a significant contributor to the spreading of COVID-19. Despite this, common sense leaves us questioning the advisability of entering a small, enclosed space with other people. Will our standard routine of wearing a mask, standing as far apart as possible, and touching nothing keeps us safe in such an environment?
The risk in lifts
In a lift, there are two primary ways in which the virus can be transmitted: between rider or through exposure to lingering particles expelled by a previous rider. The current thinking is that the longer one is exposed to COVID-19, the greater chances of contracting it from an infected person. For short lift rides, this is good news. By wearing a mask, social distancing, and practising elevator etiquette, riders are unlikely to contract the virus.
For people forced to take longer lift rides, the rule of less exposure makes you safer doesn’t apply. Still, experts have said the risk of transmission from fellow elevator riders could be minimized by following necessary safety precautions.
In Seoul, several people working on the same floor of a 19-story building contracted the virus. Though workers interacted with people on other floors and shared the elevator with them, the virus did not affect people from floor to floor.
Dr Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health in Weymouth, Massachusetts, points to this as evidence elevators are not a hot spot for transmission. He asserts there is less risk because of the short time most people spend on an elevator.
Despite the lack of evidence to support an increased risk, people should still err on the side of caution and take steps to protect oneself from exposure. Wear masks, maintain distance, and don’t touch surfaces. Carry toothpicks for pushing buttons and discard them immediately.
Why masks matter
Dr Carlos del Rio, professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Emory University, confirms the importance of masks and points to Seoul as an example. South Korea has mandated masks, which means those in the elevator of the Seoul high-rise were very likely using them.
Most doctors around the world agree a mask mitigates risk. In fact, in an article penned by Jeyaraj Vadiveloo of the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, the author asserts that if half or more of the population wore face masks, transmissions could drop dramatically. The group also developed a free, interactive computer model people can use to estimate transmission.
What you can do
Lifts or elevators do not seem to be hotspots of transmission. Looking at the Seoul example, there is an indication travelling in an elevator is safe and can be made safer by following a few simple precautions.
- Wear a mask
- Maintain distance
- Stand in the corner and face the wall, if possible
- Carry toothpicks and use them to press buttons; dispose of these safely and immediately
- Take the stairs
As the world returns to work, we do so with the feelings of safety we enjoyed pre-COVID likely gone forever. Perhaps for the rest of our lives, we will wash our hands more regularly, wear masks in crowds, and maintain social distancing.
We will avoid shaking hands in favour of elbow bumps and cancel our gym membership and invest in home workout equipment. Unless, though, our high-rises will be torn down and replaced with sprawling pods, lifts will be part of that future. What we can do now, what we can do in the future, is exercise best practices to stay safe.